Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Academy Adds New Members

It's been a busy week for the Academy of Motion Pictures of Arts and Sciences more commonly known as AMPAS to us Oscar freaks. The AMPAS released a few press releases this week highlighting changes to its Academy Awards. They started with a bang, choosing to increase the Best Picture nominee list from 5 to 10. They followed that up by limiting the Best Original Song category and relegating special honorees to their own black-tie dinner.

I am not a fan of any of these decisions and I don't pretend to know why they even made them. I can hypothesize that the exclusion of critical and audience-favorites WALL•E and The Dark Knight last year coupled with decreasing ratings might have something to do with the decision to increase the Best Picture nominees. And it seems pretty evident that the other two decisions were made to shorten the infamously bloated ceremony. Then again I'm one of the few that wishes it were actually longer. Despite what a lot of people think, the length of a show is immaterial. It's all about entertainment. Two hours of crap is worse than five hours of awesome entertainment.

But neither here nor there. I actually made this entry to comment on the latest release from AMPAS. Today the Academy welcomed 134 new members. They will now have the power to vote for the Academy Awards. I'm jealous. You can view the complete list by clicking on that link to the full press release, but I wanted to comment on a couple of names.

Before I get talking about the actors, I just wanted to say how refreshingly known all of the actors are to me. Usually there would be a name (or a dozen) of someone who I've never seen or even heard of, but this year I know their filmography quite well.

Thank you for hosting: Hugh Jackman. They loved his hosting so much they welcomed him in. Couldn't say I disagree with them.

First time nominees from last year: Viola Davis, Anne Hathaway, Taraji P. Henson, Melissa Leo, and Michael Shannon. Very good choices here though I do hope they all get nominated again sometime soon.

Former nominees: Casey Afleck, Amy Ryan, and Michelle Williams. What took them so long? Oh well, at least they are members now. I'm especially happy with Michelle's inclusion. Looking forward to her second nomination whenever it comes.

Really should've nominated by now: Emily Blunt, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, and James McAvoy. I can name a film (sometimes two) for which these actors should've been nominated, but they're all still young (and scorchingly hot) so methinks it's only a matter of time.

Really REALLY should've been nominated by now: Brendan Gleeson, Jeffrey Wright, and Jane Lynch. How they've never been nominated is astounding. I'm especially tickled that Jane Lynch is now a member. She's fantastic.

Really funny in a WTF kind of way: Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, and Paul Rudd. Along with Jane Lynch, comedy made a big showing. But while I agree with Lynch and even Rudd's invitation, Rogen? Really? But even then I get it. But Michael Cera?! I can't even wrap my mind around that one.

And while they are not actors...

They still love Slumdog Millionaire: Anthony Dod Mantle, Danny Boyle, Chris Dickens, A.R. Rahman, and Christian Colson. Winning Best Picture catapulted these filmmakers to an invitation. But no room for Latika? I'm half-kidding.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Wimbledon: Quarterfinal Preview

There were no big upsets in the fourth round as all of the favorites moved on. Tommy Haas, Lleyton Hewitt, and Juan Carlos Ferrero were able to continue their dream runs while Roger Federer got through a French Open final rematch with Robin Soderling to reach his 21st consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal. But the story of the day belonged to the the roof finally closing inon Centre Court and Andy Murray defeating Stan Wawrinka in the latest-match ever held in Wimbledon in 5 sets.


Andy Roddick [6] vs. Lleyton Hewitt
Andy Murray [3] vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero
Novak Djokovic [4] vs. Tommy Haas [24]
Roger Federer [2] vs. Ivo Karlovic [22]

There are lots of juicy pairings with these final eight players. Former Grand Slam champions Roddick and Hewitt will try to outlast one another in hopes of retaining their previous peak forms. Djokovic and Haas will have a Halle rematch in which Haas won. Murray will have to derail Ferrero's best run at Wimbledon to keep his nation's hope alive. Finally, will Federer be able to withstand Karlovic lethal serve?

Prediction: Your semifinalists will be Roddick, Murray, Haas, and Federer.

For the women, shockingly, the top four seeds are still in the tournament. Safina was able to keep her nerves in check to defeat former Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo while the Williams sisters lost a total of six games to move on. Two of those games were won by Ana Ivanovic who had to retire due to an inner leg injury leaving the court in tears. The fourth round also saw the end of American Melanie Oudin's Cinderella run.


Dinara Safina [1] vs. Sabine Lisicki
Venus Williams [3] vs. Agnieszka Radwanska [11]
Elena Dementieva [4] vs. Francesca Schiavone
Serena Williams [2] vs. Victoria Azarenka [8]

If there's one player who can derail an all-Williams final, it would be Azarenka so Serena will have a lot to handle. Safina is actually the underdog in that match up while both Venus and Dementieva should be able to cruise their matches.

Prediction: Your semifinalists will be the top four seeds.

Wimbledon: Men's Second Week Preview

Radek Stepanek [23] vs. Lleyton Hewitt
Andy Roddick [6] vs. Tomas Berdych [20]
Andy Murray [3] vs. Stanislas Wawrinka [19]
Gilles Simon [8] vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero

Tommy Haas [24] vs. Igor Andreev [29]
Novak Djokovic [4] vs. Dudi Sela
Fernando Verdasco [7] vs. Ivo Karlovic [22]
Roger Federer [2] vs. Robin Soderling [13]

The marquee matchup of the fourth round will be a French Open final rematch between Roger Federer and Robin Soderling. It was in this same round where Soderling did the impossible, beat Rafael Nadal at the French. Can he topple the favorite once again? He did tell Federer that no man can beat him 11 straight times.

Both Andy's are to be seen as favorites in their respective matches and it is looking very good for them to meet one another in the semifinals.

There are also two veterans with a new lease in life to make it into this round. Tommy Haas backs up his resurging season by surviving yet another 5-set match to make it this far while Lleyton Hewitt takes full advantage of Nadal's absence by beating Juan Martin Del Potro to reach the second week.

Prediction: I'm going to keep my original predictions from the start of the tournament with Murray defeating Roddick and Federer defeating Haas in the semifinals en route to Federer getting his record-breaking 15th Grand Slam title.

Wimbledon: Women's Second Week Preview

Dinara Safina [1] vs. Amelie Mauresmo [17]
Caroline Wozniacki [9] vs. Sabine Lisicki
Venus Williams [3] vs. Ana Ivanovic [13]
Agnieszka Radwanska [11] vs. Melanie Oudin

Virginie Razzano [26] vs. Francesca Schiavone
Elena Dementieva [4] vs. Elena Vesnina
Victoria Azarenka [8] vs. Nadia Petrova [10]
Serena Williams [2] vs. Daniela Hantuchova

Going into the second week, all eyes are on the Williams sisters who were and still are the favorites to meet in the finals. The defending champion Venus will have to get through Ana Ivanovic while her sister Serena will meet up with Daniela Hantuchova as a rematch of their infamous match two years ago with Serena cramping on court.

Number one seed Dinara Safina has done well to reach this far, but this is admittedly her least favorite surface. She has to get through former Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo if she wants to claim that maiden Slam title.

It'll be interesting to see how the battle of the Elenas turn out, but what will be more interesting to watch is how far Melanie Oudin can continue her Cinderella run at Wimbledon. Even if she is defeated by Agnieska Radwanska, it would have been a terrific tournament for her.

Prediction: I'm still betting on an all-Williams final, but their semifinal opponents which I initially predicted (Kuznetsova and Zvonareva) are out of the tournament. So instead I expect Venus to face Mauresmo while Dementieva will try to go up against Serena.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wimbledon: Third Round Casualties

With the fourth round set to begin tomorrow, let's tally up the top 16 seeds from both draws who were not able to reach the business end of the tournament.

It was a bloody round, with 12 top 16 seeds going out. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (9) was the highest seed on the men's while French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova (5) top the women's seeds.

Another high seed Jelena Jankovic (6) was defeated by 17-year-old American Melanie Oudin. Oudin has played six matches, getting through the qualifiers and beating two seeded player. She is the first qualifier to reach the second week of Wimbledon in nearly a decade.

The other top seeds to fall were Vera Zvonareva (7), Fernando Gonzalez (10), Marin Cilic (11), Marion Bartoli (12), Nikolay Davydenko (12), Dominika Cibulkova (14), Flavia Pennetta (15), Tommy Robredo (15), and David Ferrer (16).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

And isn't it ironic, dontcha think?

The last match at Center Court has finished for the first week of Wimbledon and shockingly the roof has gone unused. Oh sure, every night it's closed and every morning it's opened. But not one match has played under the multi-million dollar roof that was built to ensure matches would play even on the occassion of rain.

Yesterday, it seemd Roger Federer would have the first match under the roof, but the clouds dissipated. Similarly with threats of rain today, many thought Andy Murray would be have that honor, but the skies moved on and so did the clouds.

Will a whole fortnight go on without the roof being used? Well the latter half of next week forecasts some rain. So maybe it will be used after all.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

SYTYCD: Top 16 Results

Tonight's show began with a Tabitha/Napoleon group number that were reminiscent of Havana Nights/Dirty Dancing. Nigel then spoke of the recent deaths of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcet, and Michael Jackson. It was gracefully handled I thought.

After a commercial break, it was back to business as Asuka/Vitolio, Karla/Jonathan, and shockingly Caitlin/Jason were put in the bottom three. Not the bottom three I would've picked, but not entirely surprising either.

A B-Boy crew full of young boys came out and thrilled the audience and enchanted Cat Deely. I actually thought it was kind of a hot mess, but it's the type of performance you can't really critique.

The bottom six dancers danced for their life and other than Caitlin, no one really impressed me. After a performance by the Veronicas, the judges pretty much agreed with me as Caitlin was the only one to get universal praise. They then pulled out the rug from under Asuka and Jonathan. I totally agree with their guy pick, but I would've sent bland Karla home instead for the girls.

Wimbledon: Second Round Seed Casualties

With nary a rain cloud in sight, the Wimbledon Championship continues to to roll on finishing up the second round today. Again most of the favorites on both sides are still alive, but there were still seeds that fell this round.

Most notable were Juan Martin Del Potro (5) who was defeated by former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt and Maria Sharapova (24) who lost in three sets to Gisela Dulko. The other seeds who fell were Jie Zheng (16), Rainer Schuettler (18), Alisa Kleybanova (27), and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (31).

Finally, Fabrice Santoro was also defeated. He is unseeded but since this is his last Wimbledon I thought he deserved a shout out.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

SYTYCD: Top 16 Performances

This week the judges and I were in agreement for most of the night which was a complete 180 from last week. Tonight Toni Basil joined Nigel and Mary. On to the dancers...

Karla & Jonathan - They performed Hip Hop by Dave Sparks. I thought she danced great, but he looked like a white boy dancing hip hop badly. And the lack of chemistry is still there for me. The judges did not like it as well.

Asuka & Vitolio - Just one word to describe them and it is FIERCE. Seriously. Dancing a Mandy Moore Jazz number, they were just a joy to watch. The judges generally liked it.

Melissa & Ade - They were so hot I'm still fanning myself. Never having danced a Rumba, they just sizzled on the dance floor with chemistry to spare. The judges went insane over it and I couldn't agree more.

Janette & Brandon - I am not the biggest fan of this couple, but I got to admit that they were quite good dancing Hip Hop by Dave Sparks. The judges lavished them with praise, but this time it was deserved so no eye rolling from me.

Kayla & Kupono - They performaned a Viennese Waltz by Jean Marc. It was quite beautiful and elegant, but a bit forgettable. The judges came up with the same conclusion, but they did really like it.

Randi & Evan - I love Mia Michaels and I love this couple, but I'm not usually a fan of Mia's quirkier Contemporary routines and this performance didn't really change my mind. It was still beautifully dance and the judges quite liked it.

Caitlin & Jason - Jean Marc choreographed a Paso Doble for these two. And while I thought it was strong and was generally danced well, I was distratced. By the song, the costumes, and even some of the dance elements. The judges loved her and was a bit more critical of him.

Jeanine & Phillip - They danced a really fun Tyce Diorio Broadway routine. It was just okay, since I've seen better Broadway performances. I loved the feathers more than anything. The judges were quite lukewarm especially towards him.

Overall a good night. A better night at least compared to last week. I don't have an obsession yet like with a Pasha or a Benji from season's past. But Ade and Melisa keep warming up to me week after week. And I'm still rooting for Randi, Evan, and Jason as well.

Best of the Night: Melissa & Ade
Worst of the Night: Karla & Jonathan

Looking Forward To...

Release: July 15, 2009
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Director: David Yates
Starring: Alan Rickman, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Tom Felton, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walter, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Maggie Smith, David Thewlis, and Helena Bonham Carter

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wimbledon: First Round Seed Casualties

The first round has come and gone and for the most part the favorites are still alive. Some made it out easier than the others, but for the most part there hasn't been any crazy casualties. There were however, those few seeds who had the indignity to lose in the first round. The highest seed to lose in both men's and women's draw was Marat Safin (14) who was also playing in his last Wimbledon Championships. The other seeds who fell were:

James Blake (17), Feliciano Lopez (21), Patty Schnyder (21), Alize Cornet (22), Aleksandra Wozniak (23), Kaia Kanepi (25), Dmitry Tursunov (25), Sybille Bammer (29), Agnes Szavay (30), Anna Chakvetadze (32), Nicolas Kiefer (33)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Birthday Girl: Meryl Streep

Today is Meryl Streep's 60th birthday. And if you think that picture on the left was taken 10-20 years ago, it wasn't. It was taken only three years ago! So she's a legendary actress who can more than carry a tune and everyone loves and respects her. And she's doing all of this while aging gracefully. How is this fair?!

Now, I consider myself a Streep fan, but shockingly enough I have not seen her two Oscar-winning roles. I know it's shameful. But I have seen most of the movies she has put out this decade and it really has just been a hoot seeing her not only as a perennial Oscar favorite but more recently headlining blockbusters. This year she'll probably get more award nominations for either (or both) Julie & Julia or the untitled Nancy Meyers Project.

She graduated from my alma mater Vassar College. I've actually seen her on campus a few times during my time there as she was/is a member of the Board of Trustees. Once, I actually bumped into her at a buffet line. I was rendered speechless of course.

Finally, fellow blogger Nat over at Film Experience Blog is in the middle of his Meryl Month. Today he posted 60 Appropriate Ways to Celebrate Meryl Streep Month in honor of her birthday. Check it out.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Maybe when you're not sexily posing with your scorchingly hot offspring, both of you could throw around a ball or something else... like be a double super secret agent or kick some motherfrackin' toasters' ass.

Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wimbledon: Men's Preview

Five-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer begins his quest to break Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam wins after tying Sampras a few weeks ago when he won his first French Open title. With the defending champion and world no. 1 Rafael Nadal withdrawing from the tournament, Federer has become the default frontrunner for the win just as he was when Nadal loss early at the French Open.

Federer is in the same side of the draw as 4th seed Novak Djokovic who lost last year in the second round. But before Federer gets a chance to meet Djokovic, he might have to get through Phillip Kohlschreiber in the third round and then Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals. But in the twist of fate, Federer is slated to have a rematch with fellow French Open finalist Robin Soderling in the same round that Soderling took out Nadal at the French Open.

Djokovic could meet fellow Serbian Janko Tipsarevic or American Mardy Fish in the third round. He can meet James Blake, Marin Cilic, or more likely Halle champion Tommy Haas in the quarterfinals. Haas recently defeated Djokovic at Halle just a few short weeks ago.

On the other side of the draw, the two highest seed are 3rd seed Andy Murray and 5th seed Juan Martin Del Potro who took Nadal's spot when he withdrew. After a tought test of Arnaud Clement in the first round, Del Potro will meet the winner of Lleyton Hewitt/Robby Ginepri in the second round. Radek Stepanek or David Ferrer loom in the fourth round with Nikolay Davydenko or 6th seed Andy Roddick slated to meet him in the quarterfinals. These players were in the same quarters as Nadal so most of them are probably relieved, especially Roddick who now has his best chance to get that elusive second Grand Slam title.

Murray are many people's pick to win after Federer. He recently won a grass court tournament, his first, and he's going into Wimbledon with raucous home support and lots and lots of confidence. He could meet unseeded Ernests Gulbis in the second round, but then it should be easy until the fourth round where he is slated to meet either Stan Wawrinka or soon-to-be-retired Marat Safin. 10th seed Fernado Gonzalez, 7th seed Gilles Simon, or perhaps unseeded Mikhal Youzhny await in the quarterfinals.

Roger Federer d. Tommy Haas
Andy Murray d. Andy Roddick

Roger Federer d. Andy Murray

Wimbledon: Women's Preview

Seeded second and third, previous Wimbledon champions Serena Williams and Venus Williams are on opposite side of the draws setting up for a potential championship fight. Between the two of them they have 7 Wimbledon titles.

Defending champion Venus is in the same side of the draw as first seed Dinara Safina who is still on her quest for her maiden Slam title after losing in the finals at this year's first two Slam tournaments, one of them to Serena. Safina's grass-court history leaves much to be desired, but if she makes a deep run she could face Agnes Szavay in the third round and Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo in the fourth. Looming in the quarterfinals so Safina is a rematch of the French Open final with eventual winner Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Venus seems to have an easier route with surprise French Open semifinalist Samantha Stosur or ailing French Open champion Ana Ivanovic to meet her in the fourth round. Then it will be 6th seed Jelena Jankovic, Agnieska Radwanska, or Na Li in the quarters.

Serena in the meantime also has a relatively easy route through the early rounds. In the fourth round, she could meet Jie Zheng or Patty Schnyder or unseeded players Ai Sugiyama and Daniela Hantuchova. The quarterfinals should bring quality players such as Victoria Azarenka, Nadia Petrova, and Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova. Sharapova is still recovering from a shoulder injry that put her out of the our for 10 months. She made a strong run at the French and was able to move up from her sub-100 ranking to now being seeded here.

The other quarter belongs to 4th seed Elena Dementieva in which she is slated to play Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli in the quarterfinals. Before that can happen, both will have to get through players such as Vera Zvonareva, French Open semifinalist Dominika Cibulkova, and Alize Cornet.

Venus Williams d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
Serena Williams d. Vera Zvonareva

Venus Williams d. Serena Williams

Pixar Grants Dying Girl's Wish

The title pretty much sums it all up. The full story is over at The OC Register, but the gist of it is that sometimes big companies have heart.

Ten-year-old Colby Curtin had vascular cancer, but like many children her age she wanted to see Pixar's latest movie Up. She, however, grew too weak to see the film in theaters. A family friend contacted Pixar and instead of turning a blind eye, they flew one of their employees with a screener of the film and other goodies.

She died seven hours later.

For my part, I pretty much cried when I read the article. So now Up has made me cry for a second time.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rafael Nadal Withdraws from Wimbledon

"To not play Wimbledon is one of the toughest decisions of my career." - Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from Wimbledon only a few days before it was to begin. The defending champion and current number one player in the world has been diagnosed with tendinitis in his knees. After his surprised loss at the French Open a few weeks ago, he withdrew from a Wimbledon tune-up to try and rehabilitate his knees. To test out his knees, he played two exhibition matches with Lleyton Hewitt and Stan Wawrinka losing to both.

Nadal was drawn on the same side of the draw as British number one Andy Murray and American number one Andy Roddick. This will be a great opportunity for both of them to try and nab that elusive Wimbledon title. Five-time champion Roger Federer, however, is now the odds-on favorite to win and will break Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam wins if he does.

Tomorrow, I'll review the men and women's draws, but for now let's get back to Nadal. My heart goes out to him. Even if he wasn't the defending champion and #1 player in the world, it still wouldn't be the same without him. But I'm glad he bit the bullet and withdrew. He and his team need to think long and hard what they need to do differently to make sure this career does not end here. He's too great a champion to have this fate. Some time away to recuperate and reflect is all he needs.

Looking forward to having him back when he returns.

Heigl In, Knight Out

As Grey's Anatomy ended last season, fans saw George O'Malley played by T.R. Knight and Izzie Stevens played by Katherine Heigl in a sort of limbo afterlife as both of their characters were in the brink of death. It was also fitting since the two actors have had persisting rumors of wanting out of their contracts and/or not being satisfied with the show.

This past Wednesday, EW.com broke the news that at least one character will die and thus the actor will not come back to the show next season. That character was Dr. O'Malley and so goodbye to T.R. Knight. Click on that link to EW.com for more information, but he pretty much got what he wanted by being released from his contract.

And now comes word from Hollywood Reporter that Katherine Heigl's option has been picked up for next season so it seems that Dr. Stevens will be back after all. Sadly, I think this will make me less inclined to watch next season. I never liked the Izzie character so I would've been happy to see her leave the show, but more than that, her character surviving pretty much cheapens her entire journey with cancer. Now I bet she'll have memory loss. Joy.

Granted, I know I'm still going to watch it, but like Heroes this show is just freefalling right before my eyes. How sad.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

SYTYCD: Top 18 Results

Last night's show disappointed me because the judges and I just didn't agree on anything. But let's see what American thought after all of that shall we?

Looking angry and tattooed like Nero from this summer's Star Trek, The top 18 dancers come out and dance a manic Mia Michaels number that reminded me of babies throwing tantrums. We then get a funny montage of Lil C' spewing his bon mots from the night before. It was quite a grand display of pretentiousness if you asked me.

But neither here nor there as we get down to business. Melissa/Ade was the first couple declared safe and I was relieved for them. It was then between Caitlin/Jason and Jeanine/Phillip. America decided that Caitlin/Jason danced worse than Jeanine/Phillip. I vociferously disagree, but whatever. If Phillip is unable to get to the bottom three with that heinouse performance, just put him through to the finals now.

The next three couples came out and sadly Jeanette/Brandon was safe. Just not a fan. Karla/Jonathan was next to be safe, which meant Ashley/Kupono was in the bottom.

Right before we got to the last three couples, Cat showed us Ryan's, Evan's brother, audition for Season Six. Completely shocking the world, Ryan made it through to Vegas. Why not just automatically put him through the Top 20, I don't know. But wow how is this fair to the other future Top 20ers? ANYWAY, as expected Randi/Evan was safe. Not as expected was Asuka/Vitolio being safe as Vitolio let out a guttural scream of joy. Last pair in the bottom was Kayla/Max.

With three different couples on the bottom this week, the judges went off to decide whose dreams they would dash this week. Before that happened though we were treated to a Bollywood number and then the bottom six dancers danced for their life. I thought only Caitlin and Jason did anything worthwhile.

The judges came back after a forgettable lipsynched performance by Christian Debarge. The judges informed the dancers it was not unanimous. But with that we said goodbye to Ashley and Max meaning their respective partners will now be new partners. Until next week...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

SYTYCD: Top 18 Performance

Before I talk about the performances this week, I just wanted to say that a guy will definitely win this season. It's just a feeling I have. Plus the guys get louder cheers than the girls. So unless a girl really breaks out, a guy will win.

This week Lil' C is judging with Nigel and Mary. And while I know these three have WAY more dancing credentials than me, I just kept disagreeing with them the whole night. So it was a bit frustrating for me tonight.

Randi & Evan - The show started out with a bang with these two performing an Jive number by Louis Van Amstel. I just couldn't stop smiling throughout their routine. It was so much fun. The judges, however, were not wowed as I was. Yes, they thought it was fun as well, but they thought it could've been done better.

Melissa & Ade - This is a couple I love rooting for, but I just wasn't blown away with this Jazz routine choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. I love bits and parts of it and thought it was cool, but it just didn't really grab me as much as I wanted it to. The judges liked it more than I did with Lil' C even calling Ade the one to beat now. That's some chutzpah.

Caitlin & Jason - These two danced the first Hip Hop number by Shane Sparks tonight. While I thought it was cute and sexy, the judges had less than friendly opinions to say the least. They pretty much called them posers without really saying it, which is lame since I actually thought Jason made a convincing popper while Caitlin held her own.

Janette & Brandon - Doriana Sanchez choreographed these two in a Disco routine. I don't really like these two, but I thought the first part was quite good. I thought it fell apart towards the end and I just don't feel the chemistry between them. The judges were totally in loved with it which kinda made me roll my eyes, but whatever.

Asuka & Vitolio - We get a Waltz by Louis Van Amstel performed by these two and let me tell you it was just absolutely beautiful. Just beautiful. While it didn't make me cry, it made Mary cry and who could blame her? Just a strong and emotional performance from the pair of them. This is also the rare performance where the judges and I agreed.

Kayla & Max - Brian Freedman makes a comeback to this show by giving these two a Pop Jazz number. From the beginning, I was distracted by the ugly costumes. The latter parts were better, but for the most part it was just meh for me. So of course the judges loved it. At this point I just didn't know anything anymore. Oh well.

Karla & Jonathan - These two dance a Contemporary number by new choreography Stacey Tookey. They performed to the beautiful "Falling Slowly" which I love. And while I thought they did their moves quite flawlessly, I still felt ZERO chemistry between these two. The judges, for their part, practically had an orgasm when judging.

Jeanine & Phillip - This was excruciating for me. This Tony Meredith Tango number had nothing for me to praise. Both dancers were a bit sloppy. The song was terrible. And the dance itself was quite dull. And while the judges rightly critiqued them for their awful technique, they pretty much did everything in their power to excuse it all to kiss Phillip's butt. Sad. I hate it when judges play favorites.

Ashley & Kupono - The final Hip Hop routine by Shane Sparks was largely met by the same meh from the judges. Actually they quite liked Ashley, but they had nothing good to say to Kupono. I thought the complete opposite. I was actually pleasantly surprised by his performance (and I don't like him!) while I was meh towards her.

So as you can see the judges and I pretty much almost had the complete opposite thoughts. But they have years of dance experience, while I took a dance elective for one semester in high school. Make that as much as you will, but hey I'm the voter, right?

Best of the Night: Randi & Evan
Worst of the Night: Jeanine & Phillip

Looking Forward To...

July 29, 2009
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Director: Max Mayer
Starring: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, and Amy Irving

Monday, June 15, 2009

Birthday Boy: Neil Patrick Harris

Okay so there's still five minutes left to today. So there's still time to wish my favorite young medical genius-womanizing playboy-singing mad scientist a happy happy birthday!

Maybe he can go to a White Castle to celebrate.

Happy Birthday Neil Patrick Harris!

Illustrating French Open Champion Federer

Technically this is the third time that Roger Federer has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Could be more, but I only remember two previous times, once when he won his record-tying 5th straight Wimbledon title two years ago as a small inset and then last year he shared the front cover with Rafael Nadal after their epic Wimbledon match dubbed as the "greatest tennis match of all time." But this is his first solo cover and it's about damn time.

To view this issue and/or buy this cover, click here.

The facts were these...

I already declared the cancellation of Pushing Daisies one of the more egregious blunders of the past TV season and it's also not the first time I ranted about it's untimely demise on this blog, but seeing the final three episodes unfold these past few weeks on ABC sort of re-opened the wound. And now I'm just angry.

Yes, it was completely different from anything else on television. A Jim Dale-narrated story of a piemaker who brings dead things to life set in fantastical and vibrant surroundings full of quirky and bigger-than-life people and situations. Oh and there's singing, too! It's not American Idol, so I guess it was destined to fail. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

The show was wonderful in almost every sense of the word. The cast itself was gloriously conceived headlined by the adorable Lee Pace and the even more adorable Kristin Chenoweth. The latter was even able to showcase her breathtaking voice for a few episodes. Sigh.

With only 9 episodes in its first season it was able to garner critical and award acclaim with 12 Emmy nominations (it won 3 including Directing), 3 Golden Globe nominations, a Satellite award for Best TV Series, and a DGA award. It debut strong in the ratings, but lost a few heads in subsequent episodes. The Writer's Strike though killed the show. People just forgot about the show and it was too bad since this was around the time it got all of those award nominations. It was never able to capitalize on being the "It" New Show of the season and when it came back on air, absense did not make the heart grow fonder.

With the low ratings and fading buzz, ABC had no choice but to cancel it. They shelved the last three episodes until this summer. The series finale aired this past Saturday and I was just just so sad to say goodbye to this show. I'm glad that the finale was at least gave us fans a satisfying end for the main cast. Of course I would've wanted to see more stories of these people, but alas it's done.

And instead of leaving on a sad note, I just wanted to congratulate everyone who was involved in the show. They all deserved more than the 22 episodes they made, but on behalf of all of the fans out there, thanks anyways.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Haas, Murray Capture Home Tournaments

With Rafael Nadal taking an extended break to take care of his embattled knees and with Roger Federer enjoying the fruits of his recent Grand Slam win, the two defending champions of the AEGON Championships (Queens) and the Gerry Weber Open (Halle) were absent this week letting the others pick up the scraps.

Third ranked Andy Murray led the lineup in Queens. Without dropping a set, Murray captured the title becoming the first Brit to win a grass court tournament in nearly 70 years. He faced off against American James Blake in the final beating him 7-5, 6-4. Murray now has four titles this year, second only to Rafael Nadal with five.

Novak Djokovic led the lineup in Halle, but he was defeated by a resurging Tommy Haas who followed up his great run at the French Open by defeating the fourth ranked Djokovic 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-1. In front of his home crowd, Haas was able to win his first tour title in more than two years.

Looking ahead, Wimbledon officially starts in two weeks June 22nd, but qualifying rounds actually begin this week. Lots of storylines brewing, but it's mostly on the men's side. More of this in a couple of days.

Disney's Top Ten

This weekend I ended up seeing Aladdin on ABC Family. Nevermind that I already own the DVD and have seen it countless of times, but I saw the whole thing. And so I was suddenly compelled to make a Top 10 list of my favorite Disney animated films similar to that Pixar Top Ten list I made two weeks ago. Since my memory is shot, I used this list to come up with my ten films.

1. Aladdin (1992)
2. Beauty & The Beast (1991)
3. The Lion King (1994)
4. Mulan (1998)
5. Cinderella (1950)
6. The Little Mermaid (1989)
7. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
8. Fantasia (1940)
9. Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
10. Everything Else

I admit that my #10 choice is a huge cop-out, but I honestly got to #8 on my list and I got stuck. How do I rank all of these other films? I mean there's Pinocchio, 101 Dalmatians, Bambi, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Pocahontas, Emperor's New Groove, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. I mean don't make me choose!

Looking at this list however, I realize that it's been more than ten years since there's a Disney film I absolutely love (Mulan). In more recent years, my Disney love turned into Pixar obsession. I do have high hopes for Disney's newest film this year, The Princess and the Frog.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

SYTYCD: Top 20 Results

The first results show of the season started out with a fantastic group routine to the tune of Black Eyed Peas "Boom Boom Pow." At first I thought Wade Robeson choreographed it since it totally looked like his patented zombies, so it was a bit of a surprise to hear that it was a Shane Sparks number.

After showing a montage of the dancer's first week and how they were getting along with their partners, it was down to business. The first three couples came out and I was pretty sure they were all safe since the judges (and audience) loved them last night. Sure enough Kayla/Max, Randi/Evan, and Jeanine/Phillip were put through safety.

The next four couples were brought out. Caitlin/Jason were immediately put to safety. I was worried about Melissa/Ade, but they too were safe. It was between Ashely/Kupono and Paris/Tony. I actually expected both of them to make it to the bottom three, but shockingly enough Ashley/Kupono was safe.

The final three couples came out and Asuka/Vitolio was the second team to make it to the bottom three. So it was between Janette/Brandon and Karla/Jonathan. I was hoping it was the Janette/Brandon, but it was Karla/Jonathan to go to the bottom.

After an sexy tango performance by true professionals, the six dancers did their solos to try and convince the judges to keep them. No one really wowed me. In fact all of them more or less disappointed. They either lacked energy or their performance lacked that certain je ne sais quoi.

Sean Kingston performed as the judges deliberated. They were unanimous for both the girls and the boys. Paris and Tony were the first couple to leave. I'm a bit shocked they got rid of Tony so early, but he has had about nine lives and got through simply because of his looks nad personality. When he faltered with his own style, well, bye bye Tony.

My favorite part though? Listening to Kelly Clarkson's "Already Gone" as the goodbye song for the girls.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

SYTYCD: Top 20 Performance

I started watching So You Think You Can Dance in its second season. Skipped the first season because it was a reality show on FOX. Come on, could you blame me? But then I fell head over heels with the show during that second season. I've been a big fan ever since. Having said that, it's a new season and new contestant. So with Adam Shankman joing Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe, how did I think they did for their first performance show?

Jeanine & Phillip - They danced Hip Hop with Tabitha & Napoleon and definitely started the show on the right foot. It was so smooth and fun, I couldn't stop smiling. I made sure to keep my eye on her since I knew he'd knock it out of the park and I gotta admit, she made me into a fan. The judges loved it.

Asuka & Vitolio - Tyce Diorio choreographed a Broadway routine for these two. While I thought they were quite fun and good, I doubt this performance will resonate with America. In fact the judges were at best lukewarm when it was their turn to talk.

Karla & Jonathan - Both of them danced the Cha Cha and I was a bit disappointed. I thought they had no real chemistry nor did they display much heat. Most of it because the song/routine was just too fast for them to develop much connection. All tricks, but no heart. Of course the judges completely and utterly disagreed with me so what do I know?

Randi & Evan - They danced a Jazz routine choreographed by Tyce. And it was fabulous. They had the connection that the couple before them didn't have. The judges were totally in love with it which made me happy. Just an adorable couple overall with some powerhouse dancing skills.

Paris & Tony - They danced Hip Hop by Tabitha/Napoleon. I was excited to see this, but was ultimately let down. She did a great job for someone who had never done this before, but he was the one who disappointed. Didn't have the pop and syncness I expected. The judges were generally lukewarm so they agreed with me.

Caitlin & Jason - To the tune of Oscar winner "Jai Ho," they danced a Bollywood number. I had very high expectations for this couple with this genre with this song. And while they didn't really meet them, I thought they did quite good. The judges were a bit more enthusiastic in their praises, totally loving them.

Janette & Brandon - They were saddled with the dreaded Foxtrot tonight and sadly they didn't overcome it. In general it was a very solid performance, but it was largely forgettable. Plus shockingly enough it was Brandon who seemed heavy footed which is odd since he's a contemporary dancer! The judges quite loved it though.

Ashley & Kupono - Both of them were choreographed by "genius" Wade Robeson to mixed results for me. It was weird and just a bit abstract. They lucked out that this was towards the end, because if not it would've been discarded as forgettable. Instead the judges praised it as part of the "diversity of dance." Couldn't stop looking at her, but he left me cold a bit as did the whole performance.

Melissa & Ade - They danced a Contemporary routine by Mandy Moore. To put it simply, it was absolutely beautiful and I pretty much loved it. They were both just so light and fluid and totally connected. Brought the judges to tears and I do not blame them. Just breathtaking overall.

Kayla & Max - Rounding out the night, they danced Samba. And did they DANCE. It pretty much left me speechless. Just very hot and very sharp. The judges definitely liked it and it was a great way to end the show.

In previous seasons, I would rank the performances and make predictions on bottom three/going home. And even though I'll probably still do that down the line, this was the first performance so I'm going to let them all simmer for another week. Some of my early favorites did good, but other didn't. Some of those who I knew NOTHING about pleasantly surprised me. And overall it was a great night of dancing. I'm sure there will more to come this season.

Looking Forward To...

Release: September 9, 2009
Distributor: Focus Features
Director: Shane Acker
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, and Crispin Glover

Monday, June 8, 2009

Jack Bauer Recruits Starbuck

It's only been a few months since the last ever episode of Battlestar Galactica, but I'm already missing the cast. I followed Jamie Bamber to his recent gig on Law & Order: UK. And now I will be able to follow Starbuck next season since Katee Sackhoff has officially joined 24.

According to Hollywood Reporter, she will be playing Dana Walsh, a data analyst at CTU. Hopefully this doesn't limit her to a role being behind a desk, because I want to see her kick some ass along side Jack Bauer. She will also be playing the love interest of the character that is being played by Freddie Prinze Jr. That casting I'm having trouble accepting, but maybe it'll turn out he's a villain and Katee will get to beat him up or something.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

French Open: The Finale

I feel as if I have been preparing to write this entry for the past four years. But that is how long it took until Roger Federer was able to reach the finals of the French Open and win. He had been denied the previous three years in the final by one Rafael Nadal, but today against Robin Soderling, Federer was able to get the one tournament that had eluded him. In the process, he has achieved a career Grand Slam and tied with Pete Sampras with most major titles won.

But all the numbers and all of the statistics do not really encompass how great an achievement this is for Federer and for tennis as a sport. Here is a champion, a consummate gentlemen and an admirable ambassador for tennis, who was able take all of the losses and heartache of the past few tournaments and dig within himself to lift himself up to the pantheon of legends. 'Nuf said.

Okay, now let's get to the numbers and the statistics. In Federer's 11th French Open and 40th career Slam tournament, he captured his 14th crown in a straight set win 6-1, 7-6(1), 6-4 in less than two hours. His record improved to 14-5 in Grand Slam finals also tieing him with Ivan Lendl who had also reached a record of 19 Slam finals (8-11). Along with this French Open win, his 14 Slam titles include five titles at both the US Open and Wimbledon and three titles at the Australian Open making him only the 6th man to win at least one title in all four Grand Slam tournaments.

This was such a great tournament for Federer that even the winner of the ladies title gave him credit for her win. 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova told the press that she was frustrated with her lackluster results and it came to a head when she lost at the Beijing Olympics last year. It was Federer who gave her some much needed words of advice and encouragement and a year or so later, here she was winning her second Grand Slam title.

She was able to do so because she stood up to her inner demons. She was able to gut out a win over Serena Williams in the semifinals and then when she reached the finals, she stay cool, calm, and collected against an emotional and panicking Dinara Safina. After dismissing the world number one in two quick sets, Kuznetsova showed her true class when she dialed back her celebration knowing full well how Safina felt.

Two classy champions were crowned this weekend. Both had to exorcize some demons. Both succeeded with flying colors. Congratulations.

Finally! Number 14!

Roger Federer wins the French Open for the first time! More satisfying that Kate Winslet finally getting her Oscar! Can you believe that?!

It's Show Time

The 63rd Tony Awards are set to air on CBS tonight starting at 8PM. I will be watching because (a) love award shows (b) nothing else is on and (c) Neil Patrick Harris will be hosting. I think he's going to do a great job and I hope he graces us with his singing, which reminds me, why don't I own Doctor Horrible yet?

In any case, for someone who lives so close to New York City, it's a shame I don't go to Broadway shows often. Time is a factor, but also the money. Of course there are always lots of deals, but I usually see the price of admission and think about how many movies I could see with that. Last show I saw was more than seven months ago when I saw Equus with Daniel Radcliffe. I also saw Spring Awakening a few months before that. And then nothing else for a few years. Shame.

Oh well. I'm fairly informed about the nominations at least this year. I'm not really rooting for anything, but I do have a special place in my heart for Billy Elliot since I just loved the film version so much so I'm at least hoping it doesn't walk home empty-handed.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

French Open: Men's Final Preview

Former number one and three-time French Open finalist Roger Federer is just one match away from making history. With a win at Roland Garros, Federer will join only a handful of male tennis players to have won all four Grand Slam tournaments. He will also join Pete Sampras on top with the most majors won winning 14 Grand Slams.

This journey has not been an easy one for Federer. He was pushed to two five-setters and played five tiebreakers in his previous matches. His semifinal match with Juan Martin Del Potro was a rollercoaster ride as Federer edged to win it 3-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 in 209 minutes.

There is just one man who can derail Federer's hopes to make history and it's the same man who defeated number one seed Rafael Nadal who had prevented Federer to win this title in the previous four years. Robin Soderling is having an unbelievable dream run beating Nadal, Ferrer, Davydenko, and Gonzalez in the process. The latter he defeated in a thrilling 208 minutes 6-3, 7-5, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4.

On Sunday everything will be going against him. His record with Federer is 0-9 including a straight set loss this year on clay. This will also be his first Grand Slam final and the crowd will be pulling for Federer big time. Plus Federer has not lost to anyone not named Nadal in all of the Grand Slam finals he has played *and* no one has ever beaten both Nadal and Federer at the same Grand Slam tournament. But then again this is the guy who defeated Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, in straight sets.

Having said all of that, both guys have proven they deserve this title this year. The match will be decided between the ears. Both players have immense and very real pressure to win.

Prediction: I'm too nervous to make one.

Torchwood Returns in July

When Torchwood made its debut, I was a bit hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. My love for Doctor Who forced me to watch this show and while it had its moments during the first season, my general reaction was meh. The characters were engaging, but the show as a whole didn't leave me a lasting impression.

Character development catapulted this show as one of my favorites last year. I actually started to care about these people to the point that I cried during the fifth episode when something bad happened to them and NEARLY SUFFOCATED on my tears during the finale when something REALLY bad happened to them.

So now after almost a year of waiting, Torchwood is back. Albeit not as a full season, but as a five-episode miniseries "Children of Earth." It's set to air on BBC One five nights in a row at the beginning of July in the UK while US audiences have to wait until BBC America airs the first episode on July 20.

Friday, June 5, 2009

French Open: Women's Final Preview

First seed Dinara Safina defeated Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets 6-3, 6-3. Seventh seed Svetlana Kuznetsova followed up her gutsy win against Serena Williams with another gutsy win against Samantha Stosur 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.

Safina makes it into her second consecutive French Open final while this is Kuznetsova's fourth Grand Slam final and her second French Open final. Their head-to-head is 8-5 in Safina's favor, but 4-4 on clay. They 've also split their previous two meetings at the French Open as well as their clay results this year. From that standpoint it really is anybody's game.

Either Safina consolidates her number one ranking and gets her maiden Grand Slam title or Kuznetsova finally wins her second Grand Slam title.

Prediction: Dinara Safina in three sets.